PWA EXPO BREAKFAST
Thank you, Gianni, for that nice introduction and brief trip down memory lane. Good morning, Mayor Hales and fellow Oregonians.
I am delighted to hear the student presentations about their Career Learning Experiences. These reminded me of our state’s motto, “She flies with her own wings,” that illustrates our Oregon spirit of independence. Thank you for sharing your stories.
I know none of us would be here today if we didn’t believe in investing in Oregon’s future. To the students in this room, you represent Portland’s up and comers, our next generation of leaders, seekers and doers. It is our responsibility as business leaders and elected officials to help you realize your potential, to help you bring to life your vision for a very bright future.
We can’t think of this state’s future without thinking of its past.
Thirty years ago, if you dropped out of high school, you could get a job in the timber industry or hire on as a farmhand. Agriculture was thriving. Fishing was dependable. You could make a decent living and support your family. Of course now, that door is closing. Many of those jobs are gone. Dropping out of high school is no longer a viable economic option. Now, education is absolutely essential to prosperity.
Let me illustrate how serious this issue is: in 2014 336,000 adult Oregonians did not have a GED or high school diploma. That’s more people than the combined populations of the cities of Salem and Eugene.
Not too surprisingly, the rate of unemployment for people without a high school diploma or GED is nearly 8%. In comparison, for folks with a bachelor’s degree, it’s 4%.
I know these numbers well.
My stepson dropped out of high school. We were fortunate we had the resources to help him get his GED. Not every family does. So as a state, we must make sure Oregon addresses the needs of students who drop out. IN my budget, we have committed 2 million dollars to ensure that more Oregon students have the support they need to complete their GEDs.
Another challenge for Oregon’s future is that make sure that all of our students have the tools they need to be successful. Sometimes that means Career and technical educational programs… like the partnership PCC has with Vigor Industries to train students. That's why I am proposing to invest $40 million dollars in career and technical education.
Intentional connections between learning and future careers will increase the numbers of Oregon students with skills training and advanced education leading to a more vibrant prosperous economy. In doing so, Oregon will meet the demands of the workforce, while ensuring that students secure living wage employment in a field of interest to them.
Finally, we must make targeted investments and ensure that more Oregon students have the opportunity to afford college.
The challenge of paying for college is a major obstacle to students going to college or completing their degree.
What’s more, students with significant financial need complete college at lower rates than their peers. We need to expand the Oregon Opportunity Grant program, and increase state financial aid grants to the thousands of Oregon’s highest need students who are on track to succeed academically, but are struggling with the cost of a college degree.
I look forward to working with each and every one of you to tackle these challenges.
Abigail Scott Duniway said that the debt each generation owes to the past it must pay to the future.
I am so grateful to the Portland Workforce Alliance for your commitment to this wonderful program that plants the seeds of leadership and future success in the hearts of these young people full of passion and promise.
Your dedication to building community in this meaningful and positive way will help the students in this audience – and all across Oregon – follow the state’s motto and fly to success with their own wings.